Ethics and health

Draft guiding principles on human organ transplantation


1. In resolution WHA40.13, adopted in May 1987, the Fortieth World Health Assembly requested the Director-General "to study, in collaboration with other organizations concerned, the possibility of developing appropriate guiding principles for human organ transplants". 1 The response to this request was initiated in June 1989 following the adoption by the Forty-second World Health Assembly, in May 1989, of resolution WHA42.5 (Preventing the purchase and sale of human organs).

2. In order to take due account of the diversity in systems of health care and law, and of their social, cultural, religious and medical circumstances, the Director-General initiated a process of consultation involving a broad range of organizations and individual experts. 2 The principal initiatives were the establishment of an informal working group at WHO headquarters (with representatives from all relevant WHO programmes, as well as the Secretary-General of CIOMS) and the convening of an informal consultation on organ transplantation in Geneva (2-4 May 1990), 3 with international experts in organ transplantation, medical ethics, health policy and law, and representatives of intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations.

3. The consultation expressed the view that it was "indeed feasible to develop the Guiding Principles that had been called for in resolution WHA40.13" and reviewed an initial draft of a set of Guiding Principles. On the basis of the outcome of the consultation as set forth in its report, the initial draft was amended and widely distributed for comment to all participants and to other experts on medical, legal, ethical, cultural, religious and health policy aspects of organ transplantation. It was also sent for comment to all the WHO regional offices. A second informal consultation, with smaller membership, was convened in Geneva on 3 and 4 October 1990, 4 in order to review the second draft of the Guiding Principles in the light of the comments and suggestions received, and to prepare a third draft from which the final draft is derived (see below).

4. The draft Guiding Principles are presented as a considered response to the 1987 and 1989 Health Assembly resolutions and as a link in a process that may lead to consideration by the Forty-fourth World Health Assembly of the adoption of Guiding Principles on Human Organ Transplantation, for recommendation to Member States under Article 23 of the Constitution.